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Thomas Mann in 1929
|Born||(1875-06-06)6 June 1875
Free City of Lübeck, German Empire
|Died||12 August 1955(1955-08-12) (aged 80)
|Resting place||Kilchberg, Switzerland|
|Occupation||Novelist, short story writer, essayist|
|Notable works||Buddenbrooks, The Magic Mountain, Death in Venice, Joseph and His Brothers, Doctor Faustus|
|Children||Erika, Klaus, Golo, Monika, Elisabeth, Michael|
|Relatives||Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann (father)
Júlia da Silva Bruhns (mother)
Heinrich Mann (brother)
Paul Thomas Mann (UK: // MAN, US: // MAHN; German: [ˈpaʊ̯l ˈtoːmas ˈman]; 6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. His highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas are noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernized versions of German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Arthur Schopenhauer.
Mann was a member of the Hanseatic Mann family and portrayed his family and class in his first novel, Buddenbrooks. His older brother was the radical writer Heinrich Mann and three of Mann's six children, Erika Mann, Klaus Mann and Golo Mann, also became significant German writers. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Mann fled to Switzerland. When World War II broke out in 1939, he moved to the United States, then returned to Switzerland in 1952. Mann is one of the best-known exponents of the so-called Exilliteratur, German literature written in exile by those who opposed the Hitler regime.
Paul Thomas Mann was born to a bourgeois family in Lübeck, the second son of Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann (a senator and a grain merchant) and his wife Júlia da Silva Bruhns, a Brazilian woman of German and Portuguese ancestry, who emigrated to Germany with her family when she was seven years old. His mother was Roman Catholic but Mann was baptised into his father's Lutheran religion. Mann's father died in 1891, and after that his trading firm was liquidated. The family subsequently moved to Munich. Mann first studied science at a Lübeck gymnasium (secondary school), then attended the Ludwig Maximillians University of Munich as well as the Technical University of Munich, where, in preparation for a journalism career, he studied history, economics, art history and literature.
Mann lived in Munich from 1891 until 1933[clarification needed], with the exception of a year spent in Palestrina, Italy, with his elder brother, the novelist Heinrich. Thomas worked at the South German Fire Insurance Company in 1894–95. His career as a writer began when he wrote for the magazine Simplicissimus. Mann's first short story, "Little Mr Friedemann" (Der Kleine Herr Friedemann), was published in 1898.
Pre-war and Second World War period
|Erika||9 November 1905||27 August 1969|
|Klaus||18 November 1906||21 May 1949|
|Golo||29 March 1909||7 April 1994|
|Monika||7 June 1910||17 March 1992|
|Elisabeth||24 April 1918||8 February 2002|
|Michael||21 April 1919||1 January 1977|
In 1912, he and his wife moved to a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, which was to inspire his 1924 novel The Magic Mountain. He was also appalled by the risk of international confrontation between Germany and France, following the Agadir Crisis in Morocco, and later by the outbreak of the First World War.
In 1929, Mann had a cottage built in the fishing village of Nidden, Memel Territory (now Nida, Lithuania) on the Curonian Spit, where there was a German art colony and where he spent the summers of 1930–1932 working on Joseph and His Brothers. Today the cottage is a cultural center dedicated to him, with a small memorial exhibition.
In 1933, while travelling in the South of France, Mann heard from his eldest children Klaus and Erika in Munich, that it would not be safe for him to return to Germany. The family (except these two children) emigrated to Küsnacht, near Zürich, Switzerland, but received Czechoslovak citizenship and a passport in 1936. In 1939, following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, he emigrated to the United States. He moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived on 65 Stockton Road and began to teach at Princeton University. In 1942, the Mann family moved to 1550 San Remo Drive in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The Manns were prominent members of the German expatriate community of Los Angeles, and would frequently meet other emigres at the house of Salka and Bertold Viertel in Santa Monica, and at the Villa Aurora, the home of fellow German exile Lion Feuchtwanger. On 23 June 1944 Thomas Mann was naturalized as a citizen of the United States. The Manns lived in Los Angeles until 1952.
The outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939, prompted Mann to offer anti-Nazi speeches (in German) to the German people via the BBC. In October 1940 he began monthly broadcasts, recorded in the U.S. and flown to London, where the BBC broadcast them to Germany on the longwave band. In these eight-minute addresses, Mann condemned Hitler and his "paladins" as crude philistines completely out of touch with European culture. In one noted speech he said, "The war is horrible, but it has the advantage of keeping Hitler from making speeches about culture."
Mann was one of the few publicly active opponents of Nazism among German expatriates in the U.S. Mann advocated the idea of German collective guilt, stating on a BBC broadcast of 30 December 1945:
Those, whose world became grey a long time ago when they realized what mountains of hate towered over Germany; those, who a long time ago imagined during sleepless nights how terrible would be the revenge on Germany for the inhuman deeds of the Nazis, cannot help but view with wretchedness all that is being done to Germans by the Russians, Poles or Czechs as nothing other than a mechanical and inevitable reaction to the crimes that the people have committed as a nation, in which unfortunately individual justice, or the guilt or innocence of the individual, can play no part.
With the start of the Cold War he was increasingly frustrated by rising McCarthyism. As a 'suspected communist', he was required to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he was termed "one of the world's foremost apologists for Stalin and company." He was listed by HUAC as being "affiliated with various peace organizations or Communist fronts." Being in his own words a non-communist rather than an anti-communist, Mann openly opposed the allegations: "As an American citizen of German birth I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends. Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions, and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged 'state of emergency.' ... That is how it started in Germany." As Mann joined protests against the jailing of the Hollywood Ten and the firing of schoolteachers suspected of being Communists, he found "the media had been closed to him". Finally he was forced to quit his position as Consultant in Germanic Literature at the Library of Congress and in 1952 he returned to Europe, to live in Kilchberg, near Zürich, Switzerland. He never again lived in Germany, though he regularly traveled there. His most important German visit was in 1949, at the 200th birthday of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, attending celebrations in Frankfurt am Main and Weimar, as a statement that German culture extended beyond the new political borders.
After his 80th birthday, while on vacation, he developed unilateral swelling and pain in his leg. At that time, he was diagnosed with thrombophlebitis by Dr. Mülders from Leiden which was confirmed by Dr. Wilhelm Löffler in Zürich. Soon after, he developed a state of shock (circulatory) much to the surprise of these physicians. In 1955, he died of acute iliac artery dissection  in a hospital in Zürich and was buried in Kilchberg. Only after his death was it found that he had been misdiagnosed. The pathologic diagnosis, made by Christoph Hedinger, showed that he had, instead, a perforated iliac artery aneurysm resulting in a retroperitoneal hematoma, compression and thrombosis of the iliac vein. At that time, lifesaving vascular surgery had not been developed.
Blanche Knopf of Alfred A. Knopf publishing house was introduced to Mann by H. L. Mencken while on a book-buying trip to Europe. Knopf became Mann's American publisher, and Blanche hired scholar Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter to translate Mann's books in 1924. Lowe-Porter subsequently translated Mann's complete works. Blanche Knopf continued to look after Mann. After Buddenbrooks proved successful in its first year, they sent him an unexpected bonus. Later in the 1930s, Blanche helped arrange for Mann and his family to emigrate to America.
Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929, after he had been nominated by Anders Österling, member of the Swedish Academy, principally in recognition of his popular achievement with the epic Buddenbrooks (1901), The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg, 1924) and his numerous short stories. (Due to the personal taste of an influential committee member, only Buddenbrooks was cited at any great length.) Based on Mann's own family, Buddenbrooks relates the decline of a merchant family in Lübeck over the course of four generations. The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg, 1924) follows an engineering student who, planning to visit his tubercular cousin at a Swiss sanatorium for only three weeks, finds his departure from the sanatorium delayed. During that time, he confronts medicine and the way it looks at the body and encounters a variety of characters, who play out ideological conflicts and discontents of contemporary European civilization. The tetralogy Joseph and His Brothers is an epic novel written over a period of sixteen years, and is one of the largest and most significant works in Mann's oeuvre. Later, other novels included Lotte in Weimar (1939), in which Mann returned to the world of Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774); Doctor Faustus (1947), the story of composer Adrian Leverkühn and the corruption of German culture in the years before and during World War II; and Confessions of Felix Krull (Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull, 1954), which was unfinished at Mann's death.
Throughout his Dostoevsky essay, he finds parallels between the Russian and the sufferings of Friedrich Nietzsche. Speaking of Nietzsche, he says: "his personal feelings initiate him into those of the criminal ... in general all creative originality, all artist nature in the broadest sense of the word, does the same. It was the French painter and sculptor Degas who said that an artist must approach his work in the spirit of the criminal about to commit a crime." Nietzsche's influence on Mann runs deep in his work, especially in Nietzsche's views on decay and the proposed fundamental connection between sickness and creativity. Mann held that disease is not to be regarded as wholly negative. In his essay on Dostoevsky we find: "but after all and above all it depends on who is diseased, who mad, who epileptic or paralytic: an average dull-witted man, in whose illness any intellectual or cultural aspect is non-existent; or a Nietzsche or Dostoyevsky. In their case something comes out in illness that is more important and conductive to life and growth than any medical guaranteed health or sanity... in other words: certain conquests made by the soul and the mind are impossible without disease, madness, crime of the spirit."
Mann's diaries reveal his struggles with his homosexuality, which found reflection in his works, most prominently through the obsession of the elderly Aschenbach for the 14-year-old Polish boy Tadzio in the novella Death in Venice (Der Tod in Venedig, 1912).
Anthony Heilbut's biography Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature (1997) uncovered the centrality of Mann's sexuality to his oeuvre. Gilbert Adair's work The Real Tadzio (2001) describes how, in the summer of 1911, Mann had stayed at the Grand Hôtel des Bains on the Lido of Venice with his wife and brother, when he became enraptured by the angelic figure of Władysław (Władzio) Moes, a 10-year-old Polish boy (see also "The real Tadzio" on the Death in Venice page). Mann's diary records his attraction to his own 13-year-old son, "Eissi" – Klaus Mann: "Klaus to whom recently I feel very drawn" (22 June). In the background conversations about man-to-man eroticism take place; a long letter is written to Carl Maria Weber on this topic, while the diary reveals: "In love with Klaus during these days" (5 June). "Eissi, who enchants me right now" (11 July). "Delight over Eissi, who in his bath is terribly handsome. Find it very natural that I am in love with my son ... Eissi lay reading in bed with his brown torso naked, which disconcerted me" (25 July). "I heard noise in the boys' room and surprised Eissi completely naked in front of Golo's bed acting foolish. Strong impression of his premasculine, gleaming body. Disquiet" (17 October 1920).
Blamed sarcastically by Mann's old enemy, Alfred Kerr, for having made pederasty acceptable to the cultivated middle classes, Death in Venice has been pivotal in introducing the discourse of same-sex desire into general culture. Mann was a friend of the violinist and painter Paul Ehrenberg, for whom he had feelings as a young man (at least until around 1903 when there is evidence that those feelings had cooled). The attraction that he felt for Ehrenberg, which is corroborated by notebook entries, caused Mann difficulty and discomfort and may have been an obstacle to his marrying an English woman, Mary Smith, whom he met in 1901. In 1950, Mann met the 19 year old waiter Franz Westermeier, confiding to his diary "Once again this, once again love". In 1975, when Mann's diaries were published, creating a national sensation in Germany, the retired Westermeier was tracked down in the United States: he was flattered to learn he had been the object of Mann's obsession, but also shocked at its depth.
Although Mann had always denied his novels had autobiographical components, the unsealing of his diaries revealing how consumed his life had been with unrequited and sublimated passion resulted in a reappraisal of his work. Klaus Mann had dealt openly from the beginning with his own homosexuality in his literary work, critically referring to his father's "sublimation" in his diary, whereas daughter Erika Mann and younger son Golo Mann came out only later in their lives.
The Magic Mountain
Several literary and other works make reference to Mann's book The Magic Mountain, including:
- Frederic Tuten's novel Tintin in the New World, features many characters (such as Clavdia Chauchat, Mynheer Peeperkorn and others) from The Magic Mountain interacting with Tintin in Peru.
- Alice Munro's short story "Amundsen" in which a character makes a reference to The Magic Mountain during a conversation on tuberculosis.
- Andrew Crumey's novel Mobius Dick (2004), which imagines an alternative universe where an author named Behring has written novels resembling Mann's. These include a version of The Magic Mountain with Erwin Schrödinger in place of Castorp.
- Haruki Murakami's novel Norwegian Wood, in which the main character is criticized for reading The Magic Mountain while visiting a friend in a sanatorium.
- The song "Magic Mountain" by the band Blonde Redhead
- The painting Magic Mountain (after Thomas Mann) by Christiaan Tonnis (1987). "The Magic Mountain" is also a chapter in Tonnis's 2006 book Krankheit als Symbol (Illness as a Symbol).
- The 1941 film 49th Parallel, in which the character Philip Armstrong Scott unknowingly praises Mann's work to an escaped World War II Nazi U-boat commander, who later responds by burning Scott's copy of The Magic Mountain.
- Ken Kesey's novel, Sometimes a Great Notion (1964), character Indian Jenny purchases a Thomas Mann novel and tries to find out "... just where was this mountain full of magic..." (p. 578).
- Renata Adler's novel Speedboat, in which a minister’s wife says to a courteous, bearded boy, “How I envy you, ... reading The Magic Mountain for the first time.”
- Hayao Miyazaki's 2013 film The Wind Rises, in which an unnamed German man at a mountain resort invokes the novel as cover for furtively condemning the rapidly arming Hitler and Hirohito regimes. After he flees to escape the Japanese secret police, the protagonist, who fears his own mail is being read, refers to him as the novel's Mr. Castorp. The film is partly based on another Japanese novel, set like The Magic Mountain in a tuberculosis sanatorium.
- Father John Misty's 2017 album Pure Comedy contains a song titled, "So I'm Growing Old on Magic Mountain " in which a man, near death, reflects on the passing of time and the disappearance of his Dionysian youth in homage to the themes in Mann's novel.
- Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning relates the 'time-experience' of Holocaust prisoners to TB patients in The Magic Mountain: "How paradoxical was our time-experience! In this connection we are reminded of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, which contains some very pointed psychological remarks. Mann studies the spiritual development of people who are in an analogous psychological position, i.e., tuberculosis patients in a sanatorium who also know no date for their release. They experience a similar existence—without a future and without a goal."
Death in Venice
Several literary and other works make reference to Death in Venice, including:
- The 2006 movie A Good Year directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe and Albert Finney, which features a paperback version of Death in Venice; it is the book Christie Roberts is reading at her deceased father's vineyard.
- Woody Allen's film Annie Hall (1977).
- Alexander McCall Smith's novel Portuguese Irregular Verbs (1997) has a final chapter entitled "Death in Venice" and refers to Thomas Mann by name in that chapter.
- Philip Roth's novel The Human Stain (2000).
- Joseph Heller's 1994 novel, Closing Time, which makes several references to Thomas Mann and Death in Venice.
- Alan Bennett's play The Habit of Art, in which Benjamin Britten visits W. H. Auden to discuss the possibility of Auden writing the libretto for Britten's opera version of Death in Venice.
- Rufus Wainwright's 2001 song "Grey Gardens", which mentions the character Tadzio in the refrain.
- David Rakoff's essay Shrimp which appears in his 2010 collection Half Empty makes a humorous comparison between Mann's Aschenbach and E.B. White's Stuart Little.
- Hayavadana (1972), a play by Girish Karnad was based on a theme drawn from The Transposed Heads and employed the folk theatre form of Yakshagana. A German version of the play, was directed by Vijaya Mehta as part of the repertoire of the Deutsches National Theatre, Weimar. A staged musical version of The Transposed Heads, adapted by Julie Taymor and Sidney Goldfarb, with music by Elliot Goldenthal, was produced at the American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia and the Lincoln Center in New York in 1988.
- Mann's 1896 short story "Disillusionment" is the basis for the Leiber and Stoller song "Is That All There Is?", famously recorded in 1969 by Peggy Lee.
- In a 1994 essay, Umberto Eco suggests that the media discuss "Whether reading Thomas Mann gives one erections" as an alternative to "Whether Joyce is boring".
- In The Simpsons episode "Them, Robot", Waylon Smithers threatens the children at Springfield Elementary with not reading Death in Venice to them.
- In the Family Guy episode "Road to Europe", a pro-Fascist German tour guide argues with Brian Griffin about Mann's reasons for fleeing Germany, erroneously stating: "Nope, nope. He left to manage a Dairy Queen." Brian attempts to correct him, but the tour guide then begins angrily screaming at Brian in German.
- Mann's life in California during World War II, including his relationships with his older brother Heinrich Mann and Bertolt Brecht is a subject of Christopher Hampton's play Tales from Hollywood.
During World War I, Mann supported Kaiser Wilhelm II's conservatism, attacked liberalism and supported the war effort, calling the Great War "a purification, a liberation, an enormous hope". Yet in Von Deutscher Republik (1923) as a semi-official spokesman for parliamentary democracy, Mann called upon German intellectuals to support the new Weimar Republic. He also gave a lecture at the Beethovensaal in Berlin on 13 October 1922, which appeared in Die neue Rundschau in November 1922 in which he developed his eccentric defence of the Republic, based on extensive close readings of Novalis and Walt Whitman. Thereafter, his political views gradually shifted toward liberal left and democratic principles.
In 1930, Mann gave a public address in Berlin titled "An Appeal to Reason" in which he strongly denounced Nazism and encouraged resistance by the working class. This was followed by numerous essays and lectures in which he attacked the Nazis. At the same time, he expressed increasing sympathy for socialist ideas. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Mann and his wife were on holiday in Switzerland. Due to his strident denunciations of Nazi policies, his son Klaus advised him not to return. In contrast to those of his brother Heinrich and his son Klaus, Mann's books were not among those burnt publicly by Hitler's regime in May 1933, possibly since he had been the Nobel laureate in literature for 1929. In 1936, the Nazi government officially revoked his German citizenship.
During the war, Mann made a series of anti-Nazi radio-speeches, published as Listen, Germany!. They were recorded on tape in the United States and then sent to Great Britain, where the BBC transmitted them, hoping to reach German listeners.
Views on Russian communism and Nazi-fascism
Mann expressed his belief in the collection of letters written in exile, Listen, Germany! (Deutsche Hörer!), that equating Russian communism with Nazi-fascism on the basis that both are totalitarian systems was either superficial or insincere in showing a preference for fascism. He clarified this view during a German press interview in July 1949, declaring that he was not a communist, but that communism at least had some relation to ideals of humanity and of a better future. He said that the transition of the communist revolution into an autocratic regime was a tragedy while Nazism was only "devilish nihilism".
- 1894: "Gefallen"
- 1896: "The Will to Happiness"
- 1896: "Disillusionment" ("Enttäuschung")
- 1896: "Little Herr Friedemann" ("Der kleine Herr Friedemann")
- 1897: "Death" ("Der Tod")
- 1897: "The Clown" ("Der Bajazzo")
- 1897: "The Dilettante"
- 1898: "Tobias Mindernickel"
- 1899: "The Wardrobe" ("Der Kleiderschrank")
- 1900: "Luischen" ("Little Lizzy") – written in 1897
- 1900: "The Road to the Churchyard" ("Der Weg zum Friedhof")
- 1903: "The Hungry"
- 1903: "The Child Prodigy" ("Das Wunderkind")
- 1904: "A Gleam"
- 1904: "At the Prophet's"
- 1905: "A Weary Hour"
- 1907: "Railway Accident"
- 1908: "Anecdote" ("Anekdote")
- 1911: "The Fight between Jappe and the Do Escobar"
- 1901: Buddenbrooks (Buddenbrooks – Verfall einer Familie)
- 1909: Royal Highness (Königliche Hoheit)
- 1924: The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg)
- 1939: Lotte in Weimar: The Beloved Returns
- 1947: Doctor Faustus (Doktor Faustus)
- 1951: The Holy Sinner (Der Erwählte)
The Blood of the Walsungs
- Felix Krull (Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull) (written in 1911, published in 1922)
- Confessions of Felix Krull, (Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull. Der Memoiren erster Teil; expanded from 1911 short story), unfinished (1954)
Joseph and His Brothers (Joseph und seine Brüder) (1933–43)
- The Stories of Jacob (Die Geschichten Jaakobs) (1933)
- Young Joseph (Der junge Joseph) (1934)
- Joseph in Egypt (Joseph in Ägypten) (1936)
- Joseph the Provider (Joseph, der Ernährer) (1943)
- 1902: Gladius Dei
- 1903: Tristan
- 1903: Tonio Kröger
- 1912: Death in Venice (Der Tod in Venedig)
- 1918: A Man and His Dog (Herr und Hund), sometimes translated as Bashan and I
- 1925: Disorder and Early Sorrow (Unordnung und frühes Leid)
- 1930: Mario and the Magician (Mario und der Zauberer)
- 1940: The Transposed Heads (Die vertauschten Köpfe – Eine indische Legende)
- 1944: The Tables of the Law – a commissioned work (Das Gesetz)
- 1954: The Black Swan (Die Betrogene: Erzählung)
- 1915: "Frederick and the Great Coalition" ("Friedrich und die große Koalition")
- 1918: "Reflections of an Unpolitical Man" ("Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen")
- 1922: "The German Republic" ("Von deutscher Republik")
- 1930: "A Sketch of My Life" ("Lebensabriß") – autobiographical
- 1950: "Michelangelo according to his poems" ("Michelangelo in seinen Dichtungen")
- 1947: Essays of Three Decades, translated from the German by H. T. Lowe-Porter. [1st American ed.], New York, A. A. Knopf, 1947. Reprinted as Vintage book, K55, New York, Vintage Books, 1957.
- "Nietzsche's Philosophy in the Light of Recent History"
- 1937: "The Problem of Freedom" ("Das Problem der Freiheit"), speech
- 1938: The Coming Victory of Democracy – collection of lectures
- 1938: "This Peace" ("Dieser Friede"), pamphlet
- 1938: "Schopenhauer", philosophy and music theory on Arthur Schopenhauer
- 1943: Listen, Germany! (Deutsche Hörer!) – collection of letters
Compilations in English
- 1936: Stories of Three Decades (24 stories written from 1896 to 1929, trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter)
- 1988: Death in Venice and Other Stories (trans. David Luke). Includes: Little Herr Friedemann; The Joker; The Road to the Churchyard; Gladius Dei; Tristan; Tonio Kroger; Death in Venice.
- 1997: Six Early Stories (trans. Peter Constantine). Includes: A Vision/"Prose Sketch"; Fallen; The Will to Happiness; Death; Avenged/"Study for a Novella"; Anecdote.
- 1998: Death in Venice and Other Tales (trans. Joachim Neugroschel). Includes: The Will for Happiness; Little Herr Friedemann; Tobias Mindernickel; Little Lizzy; Gladius Dei; Tristan; The Starvelings; Tonio Kröger; The Wunderkind; Harsh Hour; Blood of the Walsungs; Death in Venice.
- 1999: Death in Venice and Other Stories (trans. Jefferson Chase). Includes: Tobias Mindernickel; Tristan; Tonio Kröger; The Child Prodigy; Hour of Hardship; Death in Venice; Man and Dog.
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